A medical nonprofit with significant ties to major pharmaceutical companies stands accused of lying about the safety of e-cigarettes.
The American Thoracic Society’s (ATS) Tobacco Action Committee claims there is a “misconception” that e-cigarettes are safer than conventional tobacco cigarettes.
ATS made the claim in the wake of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) allegedly showing youth tobacco use has stalled since 2011. (RELATED: How The CDC Turned A Fall In Youth Smoking Into An Attack On E-Cigarettes)
“Frank Leone, MD, chair of the ATS Tobacco Action Committee, believes the misconception that e-cigarettes are safer than traditional cigarettes is driving the trend to increased use, which puts children and other first-time users at risk for significant health problems,” ATS said in a press release.
ATS’s claim is extremely controversial as there is no evidence suggesting e-cigarettes are as hazardous as regular cigarettes, and an independent study by Public Health England in 2015 concluded e-cigs are 95 percent safer than tobacco and could be a “game-changer” for getting people to quit smoking.
“The levels of potentially toxic compounds in e-cigarette vapor are 9–450-fold lower than those in the smoke from conventional cigarettes, and in many cases comparable with the trace amounts present in pharmaceutical preparations,” according to a 2013 study of 12 brands published in the journal Tobacco Control.
“There is abundant scientific evidence that vaping, which has caused no documented chronic disease or death in any identified individual, is safer than smoking, which kills more than 400,000 people each year, causes chronic lung disease, cardiovascular disease, and cancer, and contains more than 10,000 chemicals, of which more than 60 are proven human carcinogens,” said Dr. Michael Siegel on his blog Tobacco Analysis. (RELATED: Formaldehyde Fears Used To Smear E-Cigarettes Have Now Been Thoroughly Discredited)
Siegel goes on to point out that ATS has been a major beneficiary of funding from the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, which is a major producer of nicotine gum and other rival products to e-cigarettes. In total, Pfizer gave ATS $695,000 between 2011 and 2015.
GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), another world producer of smoking cessation products competing with e-cigarettes, is also listed as one of ATS’s corporate members. GSK was embroiled in accusations of cronyism back in 2014 when emails obtained through a freedom of information request showed the company lobbying for tighter regulation of e-cigarettes.
“Every year, more and more adult smokers are becoming convinced that there are no health benefits to switching to vapor products,” said President of the American Vaping Association Gregory Conley in a statement sent to The Daily Caller News Foundation.
“Does Dr. Frank Leone even care if a mother or father continues to smoke because of his advice? It’s disgraceful.”
Not only has ATS’s claim on e-cigarettes been challenged, but the CDC report ATS reacted to, released April 14, has also been labeled “staggeringly dishonest” by the American Vaping Association. Overall tobacco use by middle and high school students has not changed since 2011, according to the CDC. But there’s a big problem with the CDC’s analysis.
The CDC includes e-cigarettes, which contain no tobacco, as part of overall tobacco use. Vaping has surged among middle and high school students in recent years despite age restrictions, while cigarette use has fallen markedly. “From 2011 through 2015, significant decreases in current cigarette smoking occurred among youth,” says the CDC.
But between 2011-2015, tobacco cigarette use among high school students plummeted by more than a third from 15.8 percent to 9.3 percent.
The ATS did not respond to a request for comment by The Daily Caller News Foundation.
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